Website of Muslim initiative inviting Christians to engage in dialogue concerning what is common to the two religions. (www.acommonword.com)
Seven and a half years ago, 138 sheikhs, muftis, and a variety of Islamic imams, professors, judges and politicians from around the world reached out their hand of fellowship to the Christian world.
Their invitation, titled “A Common Word Between Us and You” began like this:
Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.
The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity. The following are only a few examples:
Of God’s Unity, God says in the Holy Qur’an: Say: He is God, the One! / God, the Self-Sufficient Besought of all! (Al-Ikhlas 112:1-2). Of the necessity of love for God, God says in the Holy Qur’an: So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion (Al-Muzzammil 73:8). Of the necessity of love for the neighbour, the Prophet Muhammad said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”
The Muslim scholars then quoted Jesus, Yeshua the Messiah’s commandment of love:
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ said: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. / And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
Therefore, opine the Muslim leaders, Allah instructs the Muslim people to issue a “call” to Christians and Jews.
In the Holy Qur’an, God Most High enjoins Muslims to issue the following call to Christians (and Jews—the People of the Scripture):
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him). (Aal ‘Imran 3:64)
The Muslim leaders then call for a discussion of what is similar in both religions.
Thus in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments of love.
In this invitation to discussion, the Islamic leaders immediately set forth the central pillar of their faith:
The Testimonies of Faith
The central creed of Islam consists of the two testimonies of faith or Shahadahs, which state that: There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God. These Two Testimonies are the sine qua non [absolute, essential, undebatable, Editor] of Islam. He or she who testifies to them is a Muslim; he or she who denies them is not a Muslim. Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad said: The best remembrance is: ‘There is no god but God.’
The Best that All the Prophets have Said
Expanding on the best remembrance, the Prophet Muhammad also said: The best that I have said—myself, and the prophets that came before me—is: ‘There is no god but God, He Alone, He hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things.’ The phrases which follow the First Testimony of faith are all from the Holy Qur’an; each describes a mode of love of God, and devotion to Him. (www.acommonword.com)
So how should a true Christian or a Messianic Jew answer this invitation?
THE RESPONSE TO A COMMON WORD INVITATION
First, let us review the reply written by four scholars from Yale Divinity School’s Center for Faith and Culture and signed by 300 prominent Christian leaders:
As members of the worldwide Christian community, we were deeply encouraged and challenged by the recent historic open letter signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals from around the world. “A Common Word Between Us and You” identifies some core common ground between Christianity and Islam which lies at the heart of our respective faiths as well as at the heart of the most ancient Abrahamic faith, Judaism. Jesus Christ’s call to love God and neighbor was rooted in the divine revelation to the people of Israel embodied in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). We receive the open letter as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians worldwide. In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbors.
Since Jesus Christ says, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matthew 7:5), we want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the “war on terror”) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors. Before we “shake your hand” in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.
And the New Testament states clearly that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). . .
As we read in the New Testament: “We love because he [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our love of God springs from, and is nourished by God’s love for us. It cannot be otherwise, since the Creator who has power over all things is infinitely good.
Given the deep fissures in the relations between Christians and Muslims today, the task before us is daunting. And the stakes are great. The future of the world depends on our ability as Christians and Muslims to live together in peace. If we fail to make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony you correctly remind us that “our eternal souls” are at stake as well. [Editor’s emphasis] (Yale Center for Faith & Culture Link: http://goo.gl/FrIs9Z)
DO YOU SEE THE TRAP?
Did you see what the Muslim invitation stated? Read it again:
In the Holy Qur’an, God Most High enjoins Muslims to issue the following call to Christians (and Jews—the People of the Scripture):
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God…the Prophet Muhammad also said…‘There is no god but God, He Alone, He hath no associate….
Islam’s god Allah says there is no god [elah] but Allah and Mohammed is the prophet of Allah. The spirit/angel that dictated his version of law to Mohammed rewrote the truth concerning the Cornerstone of our faith, Yeshua the Messiah. In a direct quote from the Koran we read: Jesus was born of a virgin, but He is not a Son of Allah, but one of the prophets, of which Mohammed is the greatest. He was not crucified but only appeared to die. The Koran says the “resemblance of Yeshua is like Adam; Allah created him from dust.” It also says “Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him.”
The God [in Hebrew: Elohim] of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament [in Greek: theos] who so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
WHAT ARE THE UNALTERABLE PILLARS OF THE GOSPEL?
The bottom line is that the Muslims presented their core beliefs and invited Christians and Jews to join in those beliefs with them. Afterwards they talked about loving God and loving their neighbor. When the Christians responded, they jumped on loving God and neighbor, but the core values of the unwarranted gift of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit-inspired Word of God, the unchangeable fact that there is only one God [Elohim] whose name is Jehovah, God of Heaven and Earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob [Israel], was completely ignored.
None of these pillars of the Christian faith appear in the Common Word document written by the Muslim scholars, and as you can see, none of them appear in the Response to the “Common Word” written by Christian scholars. (Ibid. Link: http://goo.gl/FrIs9Z)
We could ask ourselves, “What if followers of the god Zeus asked us to “engage with them in an interfaith discussion of love of their god Zeus and love of our God Jehovah – “a discussion that would support the important work of reconciliation between these two great religious communities.”
It is not difficult to understand how traditional churches that have no emphasis on the gift of salvation through belief and obedience to the Son of God, could be duped into being one of hundreds of leaders who signed the Response. But how could mainline evangelical leaders be ensnared? Go to the following link to note that leaders in at least 10 major evangelical organizations signed on for discussions of “A Common Word.” (Ibid. Link: http://goo.gl/FrIs9Z)
It would appear that the signers of this interfaith document with Islam were leaders who have not manifested understanding of the truth of the Bible concerning Israel. Israel is a vital part of God’s last day plan to bring salvation to masses of people, including Muslims. Without this piece of God’s puzzle, good men and women of God go astray. So Christians and Messianic Jewish believers, Beware!
THE MOST-COVERED INTERFAITH INITIATIVE EVER
According to their website, A Common Word has received numerous awards, has been the basis for many resolutions and peace initiatives, gave birth to the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week, and much more.
Many top universities, including Cambridge, Yale, and Georgetown have developed courses, programs, and conferences based on A Common Word principles.
Hundreds of articles—carried by thousands of press outlets – have been written about A Common Word in English alone, making it perhaps the most-covered interfaith initiative ever. The UN General Assembly unanimously passed the resolution to recognize the World Interfaith Harmony Week annually during the first week of February. It already has some 850 additional events arranged around the world for this year 2015. http://worldinterfaithharmonyweek.com/events
Their website heralds a “Harmony Week” that includes all the religions of the world. Read carefully!
The World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on the pioneering work of A Common Word initiative. This initiative, which started in 2007, called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental religious Commandments; Love of God, and Love of Neighbor, without compromising any of their own religious tenets. The Two commandments are at the heart of the three Monotheistic religions and therefore provide the most solid theological ground possible.
The World Interfaith Harmony Week extends the Two Commandments by adding ‘Love of the GOOD, and Love of the Neighbor.’ (Emphasis mine.) This formula includes all people of goodwill. It includes those of other faiths, and those with no faith. (Ibid.) Banners on page 2-4 also from this website.
The original word for the concept of god is allaha – a name for any god – originating in Aramaic long before the beginning of Islam. In Arabic, the God-concept became Allah, in Hebrew, El or Elohim for the Supreme God. Neither in Arabic nor Hebrew are there capital letters, so the meaning of the true God or false gods cannot be ascertained by capital letters. (Interestingly, Allah is absolutely singular, while the grammatical construction of Elohim is plural.)
Because the name Allah in Arabic is the word for God in general, it is used both by Muslim Arabs and Christian Arabs. Muslim Arabs use it to invoke the god that Mohammed introduced to the world, while Christian Arabs use it for the God of the Bible. There are some Arab Christians we know in Israel who simply prefer to use the word “Lord” in Arabic, because they feel that the perception of the name “Allah” is severely tainted by Mohammed’s description of who God is. However, there are multitudes of Christians in Muslim countries who do use the word Allah to worship the God of the Bible, as there is no other word in Arabic that has the meaning of a Supreme God.
Look at it this way: An Arabic-speaking person could use the word “Allah” for his worship of Zeus, Baal, or any Greek, Roman or Egyptian god – any god he sees as his supreme master. However, since the Arab-speaking world is so overwhelmingly Islamic, both Arabs and non-Arabs associate the word “Allah” with the god that Mohammed introduced to the world.
“Wikipedia puts it this way:
“Allah” is just the word for “God” in Arabic, which ultimately derives from the same root as the Hebrew words “El” and “Elohim”, both used in the Book of Genesis [and throughout the Hebrew Bible]. In conclusion, people who speak Arabic, be they Christians, Jews or Muslims, use “Allah” to describe God, just as God is called “Gott” in German and “Dieu” in French.
The Biblical commandment “You shall have no other gods before Me” uses the same word, “Elohim” to refer to the “other” gods who are false. Whether or not the word “Allah” has roots from a moon god (represented in the moon symbol of Islam) there is no linguistic connection with the moon and the Arabic word for god.
WHAT DOES ALLAH OF ISLAM SAY IN THE KORAN ABOUT A SON?
For a Muslim, this is the description of Allah, as decreed by Mohammed:
He is God, the One and Only;
God, the Eternal, Absolute;
He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
And there is none like unto Him.
It is obvious that the greatest heresy in this statement of faith is the denial of the Son of God, Yeshua, Jesus – His Deity, His Name which is above all names, His purpose for coming to mankind. Note these Surah [chapter] portions from the Koran:
[Allah is] Originator of the heavens and the earth. How could He have a son when He does not have a companion [wife] and He created all things? And He is, of all things, Knowing. Qur’an 6:101
And they say, ’The Most Merciful has taken [for Himself] a son.’ You have done an atrocious thing. The heavens almost rupture there from and the earth splits open and the mountains collapse in devastation that they attribute to the Most Merciful a son. And it is not appropriate for the Most Merciful that He should take a son. Qur’an 19:88-92
And [it teaches] that exalted is the nobleness of our Lord; He has not taken a wife or a son and that our foolish one has been saying about Allah an excessive transgression. Qur’an 72:3-4
Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent.” Qur’an 112:14
THE NAME OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL
Although Allah of Mohammed has 99 attributes, the Elohim of Israel has an actual name:
Then Moses said to Elohim, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The Elohim of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And Elohim said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ehiyeh asher Ehiyeh). And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM (Ehiyeh) has sent me to you.’” Moreover Elohim said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God [Jehovah Elohim] of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’ Exodus 3:13-15
WHAT DOES ELOHIM OF ISRAEL SAY ABOUT HIS SON?
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
“I will declare the decree:
Jehovah has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.’ Psalm 2:6-8
Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is His Son’s name,
If you know? Proverbs 30:4
The whole of the New Testament gives witness to the centrality of Elohim’s Son. [In Greek: theos]
And this is the will of Him who sent Me [Yeshua, Jesus], that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of Elohim/theos. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:18-19
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of Elohim abides on him. John 3:36
Who is a liar but he who denies that Yeshua is the Messiah? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. I John 2:22
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Yeshua the Messiah and love one another, as He gave us commandment. I John 3:23
This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:11
There are many gods and every human being will give confession as to which God/god he or she served.
I wanted to write this article a few days ago, but I was stuck on my high horse and it’s just so darn difficult to type when I’m riding. Of course, I am referring to President Obama’s stern lecture, even rebuke, at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. And I quote:
“And lest we get on our high horse and think this [terror] is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ…So it’s not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us — a sinful tendency — that can pervert and distort our faith.”
Now, I know the President is smart, but this may be the one area I may be more knowledgeable than the Harvard-educated law professor. It is true that the Crusaders, masquerading as Christians, did unspeakable horrors to Muslims and Jews. In one story, they burnt down a synagogue in Jerusalem with 900 Jews inside, while singing “Christ we adore Thee.”
On the other hand, Islam was militarily advancing to the west and if not for the Crusades, you might have been reading this article in Arabic, not English!
The Inquisition was a political movement to root out non-Catholics from Spain. It had nothing to do with genuine piety. During a period of 300 years starting in the late 1400’s, 30,000 Jews were burned at the stake (just like the Jordanian soldier recently), in the name of Christianity.
NOT APPLES AND APPLES
But here is the main difference. Those masquerading Christians were doing things contrary to the teachings of Jesus for political gain. ISIS, on the other hand, is doing exactly what is taught in the Koran.
“Jesus taught peace, love and forgiveness. He came to give His life for the sins of mankind, not to take life. Mohammed on the contrary was a warrior and killed many innocent people and spread his religion by the sword. True followers of Christ emulate Christ – true followers of Mohammed emulate Mohammed.” —Franklin Graham
In fact, it is those so-called “moderate” Muslims who claim Islam teaches love, forgiveness and tolerance (as I heard a Jordanian official claim), who are the false disciples of Mohammed—it is they who are just pretending to practice Islam.
Addressing the President, a former Muslim, Brother Rachid, and expert on Islam said, “[ISIS’] leader Al Baghdadi has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies. I doubt you know Islam better than he does.”
OBAMA’S ARROGANT AGENDA
If it wasn’t clear before, Obama’s agenda is clear now. We have a President who takes more delight in spanking “arrogant America” than protecting us. President Obama’s agenda is crystal clear. He wants to put us in our place. The esteemed Bishop E. W. Jackson noted:
“This president does everything he possibly can to defend Islam and does almost nothing to defend the honor of this country.”
For Obama, all the world’s a stage and he is a Harvard professor. He takes to the podium to lecture and criticize America. But it is he who must get off his high horse, not the rest of the country. He speaks down to us as if no one else has studied history, and displays the very arrogance he accuses Middle America of having. Never in history has a president been so hostile and dismissive of the people he works for.
Of course, we saw this coming. Who can forget Michelle Obama’s confession in 2008:
“Let me tell you something. For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country…”
On the one hand, President Obama claims ISIS is not Islam—it has nothing to do with Islam. But he has no problem saying the Crusades and the Inquisitions were done in the name of Christ. He will never say that ISIS acts in the name of Mohammed.
When referring to ISIS, Obama says they do acts of barbarism “in the name of religion,” but won’t say they do it in the name of Islam or Mohammed. The Jordanian Foreign Affairs Minister, Nassim Judeh said to Shepard Smith of FOX News:
“They’re terrorists. They’re extremists. They have nothing to do with Islam and nothing to do with any religion.”
So Obama says ISIS has nothing to do with any religion… and then in the next breath he says, “Extremism exists in all religions.”
So I guess what he is saying is that when there is a Jewish extremist, then he is Jewish, because, “extremism exists in all religions.” And if there is a Christian extremist—as in the Crusades and Inquisition, he is Christian, because “extremism exists in all religions.” But if there is a group called the Islamic State that bases their theology on the Koran, prays five times a day (like good Muslims), implements Sharia Law in all their conquered lands, practices Saudi Arabian Wahhabism and the Hadith (teachings of Mohammed), and murders infidels—just as Muslims have been doing for a millennium and a half, just as Mohammed did—they are not Islamic extremists… just your run-of-the-mill terrorists. Brother Rachid disagrees, “They are following the steps of Islam’s prophet Mohammed to the letter.”
OBAMA’S FONDNESS OF ISLAM
It would appear that President Obama has compassion for people like the Taliban. Maybe he sees them as victims of western oppression? Or maybe he has a secret love affair with the traditions of Islam that he boasts of adoring during his years going to an Islamic school.
Obama was registered in two Indonesian schools for four years as a Muslim, studied and memorized portions of the Koran and wore Islamic clothing in Indonesia. He has stated during his presidency that the most beautiful sound in the world is the Islamic call to prayer. He obviously has fond memories of his life as a Muslim. (Maoz Israel Report, February 2015)
I don’t know what the next year and half will bring, but it appears, that without the possibility of reelection, President Obama is not even attempting to hide his disdain for his own country.
Ron Cantor is Executive Pastor of Congregation Tiferet Yeshua in Tel Aviv. (www.messiahsmandate.org)
ABOVE, RIGHT: NEW UKRAINIAN JEWISH REFUGEES GATHER AT BEIT HALLEL MINISTRY CENTER IN ASHDOD, ISRAEL
The Ukraine is embroiled in a civil war and Ukrainian Jews are fleeing war-torn towns like Donetsk, where fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatists have devastated entire communities. Homes are destroyed and many people have lost everything. Jews tell of gangs roaming the streets and no police to call if something happens to you. There is talk of a cease fire; whether or not it holds, thousands of Ukrainian Jews have have said “enough!” and are pouring into Israel – their ancient homeland.
Once they arrive, they are faced with settling into a new culture with basically nothing but the clothes on their back. The Ukrainian Refugees are scattered all across the Land, including in Ashdod, where Maoz has partnered with Congregation Beit Hallel to help them get settled and begin a new life in Israel.
Recently we sat down with Israel Pochtar, leader of Messianic Congregation Beit Hallel in Ashdod:
MAOZ: There are hundreds of Ukrainian Jews fleeing the unrest in their country, and arriving in Israel. How did you get involved in helping those refugees?
ISRAEL POCHTAR: In the past, Ukrainian Jews would plan for years to immigrate to Israel “one day.” But now all that has suddenly changed. They are fleeing for their lives…grabbing a suitcase, and leaving everything else behind – jobs, homes, cars, friends, and family.
They are arriving here in Israel with absolutely nothing. Since they don’t know the language when they arrive here, most of the refugees find themselves going to Ulpan (Hebrew language school) where at least they will begin to learn Hebrew which will help them function in a new home and culture.
So that’s where we decided to post signs – on the bulletin boards at the Ulpan centers, giving them our number to call for help…. And every day, we have more and more people calling, asking for help.
It’s so crucial during the first days and months in a new country when you don’t have even the basic necessities – pots and pans, dishes, blankets, toilet paper, etc. Even the smallest help can make a big difference – it’s so important to act now during this time when they need our help the most.
MAOZ: What have you been able to do thus far to help them?
ISRAEL: It’s amazing! At our first gathering, 150 families showed up! We started with handing out blankets and toilet paper – and we plan to continue helping and ministering to these refugees and increasing the aid, helping more refugees. Some of them are young families with as many as six small children. The challenges for them are overwhelming.
We are gathering them at our ministry center, providing the basic necessities, and giving them love. At a time like this, they don’t care one bit that we are Messianic Jews. They are happy to receive a helping hand and a caring heart of love.
These precious people who have literally fled the horrors of war and are starting afresh in a country which is, on one hand their homeland, and on the other, still quite strange; even the smallest act of kindness touches their hearts and makes a difference in their daily struggle right now.